Happy Holidays… Not so much.

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Just about the time my heart gets excited about all that Christmas holds and the celebration of Jesus, Christians everywhere ruin it for me. See, instead of rejoicing in the holiday, we make it a war against words and hatred of tradition. I’ve seen just as many rants in the last few weeks as I do during election time. Suddenly we pride ourselves on being better, more attuned, and more sincere than others and because we do it in the name of Christ we consider it okay. We start a holiday jihad and anyone who doesn’t stand with us is a religious terrorist. How does that look to a world that is looking for hope? How does that settle in the hearts of those hoping to be proved wrong in their evaluation of us? How does that look to our forefathers in the faith that sacrificed everything for us to have the freedom to share the gospel? How does that answer a call to love our neighbors? We look like self-righteous, joy squashing, peace stomping hate mongers.

I know I’ll get grief from this blog. But before you take me out to the woodshed and rake me over the coals of faith and the gospel, I want to point to these words:

I am a free man, nobody’s slave; but I make myself everybody’s slave in order to win as many people as possible. While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them. In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law. Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 GNT)

Paraphrase: By whatever means possible, I become subservient to those around me, not to bombard them with my beliefs but to win them to the love of my Saviour.

I ask you, what part of this holiday battle is based on servanthood? Because I see it more like feigned humility and exaggerated worship then about winning the lost to Christ.

In a culture where “bullying” is defined as using “superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants” – we are dangerously close to that in our religious expectations. And the sad thing is, we don’t just turn our anger outward to those who don’t believe, but we accuse our own of hypocrisy because they choose to do things differently. We make “believing in Santa” akin to worshipping the devil. We refuse to appreciate the tradition in our angst over the commercialism. I confess, it is upsetting that consumerism has threatened the sacredness of the celebration, but is it my fault? Is it the fault of my unbelieving neighbor? Is it the fault of the story of Santa and his elves.. Some of which make daily journeys to our homes to observe our kids? No. It’s the fault of the almighty dollar… Which we don’t seem to be warring against, and I don’t suggest boycotting Christmas like we have Disney (since that was so successful) or JC Penney (which was equally so), because those actions aren’t making a difference except to further paint us as prejudiced elitists.

So what is my suggestion?
Love.
I’m not saying give in and give up, but you can lovingly disagree without looking self-righteous and judgmental. Loving your neighbor should be most significant this time of year. It should be more than giving others gifts or helping out hurting families. It should include putting your differences behind you, reaching out a hand of love that says, “I love you and no matter what you believe or what you don’t, I will put aside my preferences to make sure you know that this season is about grace. This holiday is about a God that loves you and whether you know Him or not, nothing can change the fact that He paid a price that you could never pay, and gave a sacrifice you could never make, not so I can lord my beliefs over you but so that you might know love and have life.”

After all, if restraints and laws could change hearts, Jesus would never have had to be born. His advent ushered in Love, Joy, Peace… And requires our patience. So, let’s be Christ this Christmas – Ambassadors instead of Gestapo. The Angels declared it best, “Fear not. I bring you good tidings of great joy. A Saviour has been born to you, He is Christ The Lord.” Good tidings. Great joy. A Saviour. THAT is the reason for the season. We would do well to live up to that, humbly. All year round.

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Not just an American Girl®

I have literally been stressed this Christmas. I don’t usually stress about trivial things so being hugely stressed over one toy on the list is mildly ridiculous. But I am. What is this toy? An American Girl doll.

My mommy heart wants my baby to be happy. I want to see eyes sparkle and feel love-filled hugs as she calls me the best mom ever! But my increasingly radical, compassionate heart just can’t see spending that amount of money on a toy! A toy that most likely will end up on a shelf in a few years time – forgotten and collecting dust like every poor outcast of Toy Story.

I’ve heard every argument that can possibly be raised. And I nod at their validity. I definitely don’t fault anyone for spending their money on an iconic doll for their daughters. But, I’ve researched the “knock-offs” and honestly… Imitations are getting quite good! Granted, there are no mega stores with play spots and tea rooms for these dolls, but they are quite beautiful, even more beautiful, in some cases, than the American Girl dolls.

But here is the thing, I’m not cheap. I see the value in good quality and want the best for my kids, only in the end is it an investment that will matter? In the past few months I’ve read some things that have me rethinking how much I spend and on what I spend my money. This quote from “God can’t sleep” by Palmer Chinchen pretty much wrecked me, “We must live generously, live simply… So that others may simply live.” That means living beyond iconic dolls with high price tags to meet more devastating needs, more life sustaining needs.

I want to leave a legacy, and I want my sweet, precious, priceless daughters to leave one, too. But, I don’t want it to be a doll. I want it to be a generous spirit, a heart that puts others needs before its wants, and a soul that understands that it’s not living to please itself… Quite honestly, dedicated selfless Jesus followers. I want to leave the legacy my ancestors left me, the one my parents worked to instill in me – The passion that made them stay on a mission field far away from the comforts of home for almost 30 years. That same passion inspired my oldest sister to volunteer in the Korean pediatrics unit as a teen instead of landing a high paying job teaching English, and gave my other sister the desire to get her Masters degree and mentor and teach kids with special needs, and has my parents still giving the clothes off their backs at times to meet the needs of those they come in contact with. That’s a lasting legacy. The one I want to leave my girls, and the one I desperately pray they leave to theirs!

So, after great deliberation and insight, I made a decision. We got the “knock off” brand doll. My daughter hasn’t unwrapped it yet, and I pray she isn’t disappointed. But, with the money I saved I bought one other gift – a goat. I’ll never see the goat, or milk the goat, or (thankfully!) have to touch the goat, but without really realizing who or where, we are going to meet a desperate need. And, hopefully with that small pittance of generosity, some family in a third world country will live to leave legacies of their own.

I’m not just an American girl. This land is not my home. I’m merely a traveler passing through, praying to leave the world a better place, and leaving a better hope for my children. For me, a doll brings temporary happiness.. A generous spirit ignites eternal joy.

You, too, can give a gift that sustains life. Go to this link: http://www.globalgiftguide.org and find out more about how you can, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Happy shopping!

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Little Drummer Girl

One of my favorite songs this time of year is “Little Drummer Boy.” I love the cadence of that song, the tune, and the story. But to be honest, I always felt sorry for the boy; he had nothing to give but a song, on his drum. Doesn’t seem like much does it? Or maybe that is how shallow I was or how little I understood until I met the little drummer girl.

To have nothing to give is honestly a foreign concept to me. Though I didn’t grow up in exceeding wealth, I was by no stretch of the imagination poor. Growing up on the mission field had its hardships, but worries about finances never seemed to get to us kids. Daddy handled it well, and he always trusted that God would provide. And, He did, over and above what was necessary to live. Somewhere, always, there was something extra…and charity often took the form of currency. I gave it willingly and freely…but not altogether sacrificially.  I gave out of abundance, but the little drummer boy gave out of necessity.

The little drummer girl I know can identify with the little drummer boy. Emancipated at the age of 16 and living on her own with the provision of God and only those He has faithfully placed in her path, she has lived in want before. She lives in want now…but her needs are met. I can see her, on that beautifully starlit night, gathering her courage to stand before the manger to take a peek at her Savior. With a shrug and a frown, but with eyes all aglow, I can hear her say, “I don’t have much, but I have this drum…and I will play it for you.” She would smile, and pause, and then she would play. It wouldn’t be some haphazard beat that would erupt, but a passionate piece, resonating from her very heart of love. She would play her drum for Him…she would play her best for Him. And, He would know it was the best she had to offer.

It is what she offers Him daily. In so many ways, for so many hours, she trains and practices and learns, not only so she can be better, but so that her offering can be the best. I love this about her. She plays her heart out! She has taken every blow and unkind word that life has thrown at her, and she has willfully pushed that into music for her Savior.  And it isn’t a gift to be pitied; it is a gift to be envied! She expresses more love and devotion with each beat than many will ever dare to express in mere words or thoughts. She sees the drum as His gift to her…and she has made that her gift to Him.

I can never listen to that song again and not think of her. Our little drummer girl…and if she reads this, she will throw her hands up and say something tough followed by, “Whatev,” but this chick is special. As special as they come…and her Father knows this…her heavenly Father…and He is blessed by her songs.

“Then He smiled at me…me and my drum.”